Carolina Hurricanes fans worst fears came to fruition late yesterday afternoon when it was announced that Justin Williams would need major reconstructive surgery on his left knee. He will be out for a period of 4 to 6 months. While this news is devastating to the team as well as to fans, one can't imagine how Justin Williams must feel. To train and work so hard, only to have to miss so much of the season due to an injury that you have no control over must be heartbreaking. This is the same knee that Justin had major surgery on previously, during the 2002-03 season. I'm sure that won't make the process or recovery any easier.
You can read the official Hurricanes announcement here. Also, James Mirtle wrote an interesting article about the situation which is definitely worth checking out. The idea that Williams will be missing from the lineup is a huge loss, no doubt about it. But if there is any good news, it's the fact that Carolina is deep at the forward position.Â If any team in the NHL can withstand a loss like this one and still be successful, it's the Canes. It certainly won't be easy though.
To compound Carolina's problems, Chad LaRose was put on the IR because of his concussion. He will definitely miss tonight's game in Tampa Bay, and possibly more. Craig Adams will serve the second game of his 2 game suspension tonight and will be unavailable as well.
Where does this leave the Hurricanes? As I mentioned yesterday, they needed to make a decision to recall someone from their minor league affiliate in Albany. Their choice was Brandon Nolan! Nolan was a free agent acquisition during the 2007 offseason. He's been around a bit, but he's still young enough at 24 to improve and possibly make an impact if given an opportunity. He's been a pleasant surprise at Albany this season where he has 11 goals and 11 assists so far in 29 games and is the 2nd leading scorer for the Rats. Brandon is not a huge player at 5'10, but he's supposed to be feisty and skates with reckless abandon, a commodity that any team can use.
There was something that I had forgotten about yesterday.Â Â He happens to be NY Islanders head coach, Ted Nolan's son! Obviously, it's huge for the family that Brandon is making his NHL debut tonight and his mother and younger brother are both expected to be in Tampa. When coach Nolan was asked if he had any advice for Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette regarding his son, Nolan responded "play him!". Laviolette is expected to do just that and will audition the youngster on the 3rd line with Matt Cullen and Andrew Ladd. That's not bad company for a newbie!
In other news tonight, Scott Walker is expected to move up and play on the Brind'Amour line with Cory Stillman. Eric Staal will be centering Erik Cole and Ray Whitney on the top line. Trevor Letowski and Jeff Hamilton will fill in as needed, or Staal or Brindy will double shift as a center for them. Cam Ward will be back between the pipes and everyone will be looking for a stronger game from him. Laviolette will go with 7 defensemen and will rotate the pairings between, Wesley, Hedican, Commodore, Gleason, Kaberle, Wallin, and Seidenberg. This group really needs to tighten down a bit. Carolina's "goals against" is among the highest in the league and that stat has to improve if the team is going to get back to their winning ways.
The Lightning always give the Hurricanes fits, especially in Tampa. This game will certainly be a challenge as well. It will be interesting to see if John Tortorella uses newly recalled goalie, Karri Ramo, who won his first outing of the year against Toronto on Thursday night, or if he uses Johan Holmqvist, who usually performs like Georges Vezina when he plays against the Canes, but looks more like the return of the (25% rule) and John Grahame, when he plays against everyone else. Game time is at 7:30 and it will be televised locally on FSN.